Looking to the Hills
Psalm 121:1-8
I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help.…

We see the exile, wearied with the monotony of the long-stretching, flat plains of Babylonia, summoning up before his mind the distant hills where his home was. We see him wondering how he will be able ever to reach that place where his desires are set; and we see him settling down, in hopeful assurance that his effort is not in vain, since his help comes from the Lord. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills;" away out yonder westwards, across the sands, lies the lofty summits of my father. land that draws me to itself. Then comes a turn of thought, most natural to a mind passionately yearning after a great hope, the very greatness of which makes it hard to keep constant. For the second clause must be taken as a question: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help?" How am I to get there? And then comes the final turn of thought: "My help cometh from the Lord," etc.

I. THE LOOK OF LONGING. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills" — a resolution, and a resolution born of intense longing. It comes to be a very sharp question with us professing Christians, whether the horizon of our inward being is limited by, and coterminous with, the horizon of our senses, or whether, far beyond the narrow limits to which these can reach, our spirits' desire stretches boundless. Are, to us, the things unseen the solid things, and the things visible the shadows and the phantoms? We see with the bodily eyes the shadows on the wall, as it were, but we have to turn round and see with the eyes of our minds the light that flings the shadows. "I will lift up my eyes" from the mud-flats where I live to the hills that I cannot see, and, seeing them, I shall be blessed. Further, do we know anything of that longing that the psalmist had? He was perfectly comfortable in Babylon. There was abundance of everything that he wanted for his life. But for all that, fat, wealthy Babylon was not Palestine. So the psalmist longed for the mountains, though the mountains are often bare of green things, amidst the lush vegetation, the wealth of water and the fertile plains. Do we know anything of that longing which makes us "that are in this tabernacle to groan, being burdened"? Unless our Christianity throws us out of harmony and contentment with the present, it is worth very little. And unless we know something of that immortal longing to be nearer to God, and fuller of Christ, and emancipated from sense, and from the burdens and trivialities of life, we have yet to learn what the meaning of "walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit" really, is. Further, do we make any effort like that of this psalmist, who encourages and stimulates himself by that strong "I will lift up my eyes"? You will not do it unless you make a dead lift of effort.

II. THE QUESTION OF WEAKNESS. "From whence cometh my help?" The loftier our ideal, the more painful ought to be our conviction of incapacity to reach it. The Christian man's one security is in feeling his peril, and the condition of his strength is his acknowledgment and vivid consciousness always of his weakness. "Blessed is the man that feareth always." "Pride goeth before destruction." Remember the Franco-German war, and how the French Prime Minister said that they were going into it "with a light heart," and how some of the troops went out of Paris in railway carriages labelled "for Berlin"; and when they reached the frontier they were doubled up and crushed in a month. Unless we, when we set ourselves to this warfare, feel the formidableness of the enemy and recognize the weakness of our own arms, there is nothing but defeat for us.

III. THE ASSURANCE OF FAITH. The psalmist asks himself: "From whence cometh my help?" and then the better self answers the questioning, timid self: "My help cometh from the Lord," etc. There will be no reception of the Divine help unless there is a sense of the need of the Divine help. God cannot help me before I am brought to despair of any other help. If we conceit ourselves to be strong we are weak; if we know ourselves to be impotent, Omnipotence pours itself into us. We read once that Jesus Christ healed "them that had need of healing." Why does the evangelist not say, without that periphrasis, "healed the sick"? Because he would emphasize, I suppose, amongst other things, the thought that only the sense of need fits for the reception of healing and help. If, then, we desire that God should be "the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever," the coming of His help must be wooed and won by our sense of our own impotence, and only they who say: "We have no might against this great multitude that cometh against us," will ever hear from Him the blessed assurance: "the Lord will fight for you." "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Song of degrees.} I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

WEB: I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from?

Lift Up the Eyes of the Soul
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